Just as I vow no more sugar shall pass my lips, I realize I have Harry and David pears that are ripening and will soon turn to mush. Fruit sugar is okay, right? Well, plus a little red wine, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Voila! Poached pears.
Once the pressure of organizing the celebration passes, there is a lovely “time out of time” in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Just the right time to make poached pears and do a little writing.
Jeffrey Eugenides has a great piece in the New Yorker’s Page-Turner column called “Posthumous” in which he recounts the great South African writer Nadine Gordimer advising a young writer to “write posthumously,” in other words without concern for what people think, the latest literary fashion, or money. Pretend you’re dead so you can free yourself to say what you really think.
So this is my week to play possum, hole up by the Christmas tree, and return to the world of words. Being quiet and apart from the real world is essential to the craft of writing. Yet, it’s the very thing I often find most difficult to do. If being a hermit – or a writer – were easy, everyone would do it.
The fine balance I keep aiming for is to be in the world but not of it. In it, but not excessively. In it, but still available to my own thoughts and wish for poached pears. As my publisher, Dream of Things press in the person of writer Mike O’Mary, prepares to relaunch my memoir Swimming with Maya as an eBook and paperback, the balance I’m talking about will be challenged.
It is difficult – some would say impossible – to promote a book and write at the same time. I’m taking steps to ensure that I can, including meeting with my writing group to set goals specifically for writing early in January, signing up for an Amherst method writing workshop in February and March, and rededicating myself to writing first thing in the morning several times a week. It would be great if I could do it daily, but I’m a realist, and I know there are mornings when exercising or meditating first thing will take priority.
Living takes priority. So, as Eugenides advises, we can play dead in order to advance our art, but in the end, guess what, we’re still here. Those poached pears are still calling. The cats still need food and vet visits. And you will be seeing me at the office.
Enjoy this “time out of time” and celebrate the dawn of 2013. May it be a year filled with balance, quietude, good words, and equally good food. In other words, life.